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Julian’s Story

Julian with his AFC attorney, Romi Paek, at AFC's 2017 Spring Benefit. Julian was the 2017 recipient of the Education Champion Award.

Julian is a high school junior on the autism spectrum.  His parents first contacted AFC when Julian was 9 years old because the New York City Department of Education (DOE) had placed him in an inappropriate classroom, and he was failing to make progress academically.  When his case came to us, Julian was incorrectly labeled as speech and language impaired with a borderline IQ, although private testing indicated that he was functioning at a much higher level.  Although Julian was in a special education classroom in a local school, the program was meeting neither his needs nor the mandates of his Individualized Education Program.  His parents were concerned that Julian, who was in the third grade, was being given first-grade course work, while at the same time being pressured to take standardized tests on material he had never been taught.  Moreover, the environment was chaotic and stressful, making it nearly impossible for him to learn.

AFC successfully argued on Julian’s behalf for the DOE to fund his matriculation at Learning Spring, a private elementary school program with specialization in meeting the needs of students on the autism spectrum.  At Learning Spring, Julian began to show real progress; the program was more academically challenging, and he was making connections with his classmates and teachers.  Two years later, when Julian aged out of Learning Spring, AFC secured the cost of Julian’s tuition to attend Gersh Academy, a private school for students on the autism spectrum, where he attended middle and high school.  During his sophomore year, AFC and Julian’s parents advocated for him to take a higher-level course, to see if he had the skills to transition to a more challenging program where he could have a chance to earn a Regents diploma. Julian worked very hard to pass his first Regents exam, and he was subsequently accepted into Gersh’s “I Am I Can” Program, where he has successfully completed all but one of his Regents exams. Julian expects to graduate next year with a Regents diploma and hopes to become a commercial drone pilot.